"...His dream to run Alaska
            now is gone.
            A rifle in his hand,
            he made his final stand.
            The history of his name will
            linger on."

The Ballad of Soapy Smith, by Al Oster

           Time of Death
             July 8, 1898

          Friday evening roughly
             9:15 pm 

Why we call it a wake

2Wake  1: a watch held over the body of a dead person prior to burial and sometimes accompanied by festivity.      

When the widow of Jefferson R. Smith III (the wife of Soapy's son) passed away in 1971 she started a family tradition. In her will she requested the family members, those who wished to attend, come to her home and remember her fondly. An addition to the will requested that the adults bring alcoholic beverages and drink them in an informal "Irish Wake." This caused a stir with some of the more conservative members of the family but all respected her last wishes. Although to young to drink Jeff said he remembers everyone having a nice time; some more than others. Jeff's father, John Randolph Smith, asked that the same be done for him and it was. When some of the family members went up to Skagway, Alaska the very first time we created the first Soapy Smith "wake." It has been called a "wake" since 1974. The Magic Castle started up their annual event in 2004 but they prefer the word "party," over the word "wake." On this website and with the Smith family it will always be known by its original namesake, the Soapy Smith Wake.

 Click on photo for a larger view
The very first wake
(l to r) Joanne McNelis, Dorthy Richards, James Richards, Jeff Smith, Greg Smith, Dorthy Smith, Tad, John Randolph Smith, Jeff Brady

The  Toast

Many of Soapy's friends and business associates were very loyal, even decades after Soapy was killed. The toast, "Here's to Soapy's Ghost," came from one of these old-time members of the gang visiting the family home in St. Louis in the 1920's. As a young boy, John Randolph Smith recalled the visit. He remembers the con man talking and drinking with Soapy's widow. During a drunken lull in the conversation, the con raised his glass and blurted out, "Here's to Soapy's Ghost."

The famous Magic Castle

There are currently three Wakes held within the United States,

1.) Eagles Hall, Skagway, Alaska.
2.) Magic Castle, Hollywood, California.
3.) The Tivoli Club (a preproduction of Soapy's saloon in Denver, Colorado), Whitehorse Ranch movie lot, Yucca Valley, California.

If you are unable to physically join us at one of the wakes, please, no matter where you are on July 8th, at 9:15 p.m., raise your glass and give the toast quoted below.  It is the toast used by the Smith family, started 32 years ago! Relatives and Friends of "Soapy", raise your glass.*


"Here's to Soapy's Ghost"

Official Time Remaining
for the Soapy Smith wake


Jeff and Ashley Smith
Soapy Wake, 2007

Photographs of the 2007 Wake
Click Here


Soapy Smith's grave, with a replica of the second marker

Skagway, Alaska is where the Soapy Smith wake originally started. It was 1974 when members of the Smith family, along with the cast of the Days Of '98 Show (The Soapy Smith Play) started the tradition. The newspaper in Skagway at the time reported on the event. Champaign was un-corked and consumed. Before long there was a general need for the revelers to relieve themselves of the bubbly thus began a horrid tradition that accompanied the Wakes. There were no restrooms, so some "wakers" decided to go pay their respects to Frank Reid, the man credited with the killing of Soapy. The reporter defined it as the "sprinkling of Frank." The family and some residents of Skagway thought it was funny back then. The Smith family continued to send up money to purchase Champaign for the wake until it was finally banned from being held at the cemetery.

Frank Reid's memorial
(not the urinal)

At one time the Smith family condoned, and yes, even participated in, "the sprinkling of Frank." The family no longer sanctions or approves of the activity. One might ask why the Smith family would treat Reid's grave as we did. Let me try to explain. In 1974, the Smiths had known for many years that who really killed Soapy had been covered up in various ways. Research shows that Soapy did not die in a fair fight but rather, by definition, was murdered. Over the years we learned the history of the real Reid. Frank had a not so clean past of his own. We knew that he was not the knight in shining armor that so many historians have painted him to be. Soapy's family was tired of hearing the same old "good" versus "evil" stories when it came to Skagway history. The truth is that very few in Skagway of 1897-1898 could be defined as innocent. Most of the businessmen who were so "against" Soapy after he was killed were so happy that he and his men had been keeping the money in town, and in their pockets, when Soapy was alive. "Good friends," however, quickly turned into self-professed "bitter enemies." None of Soapy's friends in Skagway dared stick up for him, and no one can really blame them. To have stuck up for Soapy after he was killed would mean the loss of everything one owned and a ticket straight of town. It was only after they had left the city would some of the residents and friends discuss their true feelings about what had occurred. In 1974, after decades of turmoil over the covered-up murder of their grandfather, the grandchildren's exasperated resentment came pouring out ... literally. Our revengeful grudge should not have been pointed specifically at Reid, but he had been put up on such a high pedestal that he was an easy target to aim at. There are several other targets more deserving. Their names will be discussed in detail in Jeff Smith's upcoming biography on Soapy. Our revenge will be the truth.

An Apology

I am one of the two remaining family members who were
       present at the first annual Soapy Wake in 1974. Though
but sixteen, I remember that the Smith family knew of no
       surviving relatives of Frank Reid. Over the next thirty
years, I was introduced to several members of his family
       and have come to realize how upset the Reids must be
       with my family and me for the tradition that began over a
       generation ago. I know how upset I would be were I to
       find that people were doing to Soapy’s grave what we had
       begun doing to Frank Reid’s in 1974. So it is, without
       expectation of being forgiven, that I apologize to the
       descendants of Frank Reid and express most humbly my
       deep regret that the horrid tradition of “sprinkling” his
       memorial was ever started.

    Jeff Smith, President
      The Soapy Smith Preservation Trust


The 108th Anniversary Soapy Smith Wake
July 8, 2006

Poster by Whit Haydn

Film footage of the last year's wake

The 4th annual 109th anniversary Soapy Smith Wake at the Magic Castle was an absolute success! Thanks to Whit Haydn and the Magic Castle.  Was there any doubt?

The wake was held downstairs of the Magic Castle in the W.C. Fields bar, and it was packed solid with several hundred reenactors in 19th century clothing and guests in three-piece suits. The $5.00 entrance included play money for gambling at the faro tables and a brochure on Soapy and how to play faro. The money collected was donated to the Magic Castles, Dia Vernon Charity Fund. Guests were also invited to purchase numerous auction items, including a small wood chip off the original grave marker, beautifully displayed in a shadow box. The chip sold for $80. There were bars of souvenir Soapy soap and Soapy Smith posters
for purchase. In the planning stages, we were hoping to have one faro table, but were fortunate enough to have four! All of which were busy the whole night long. They were owned and operated by reenactors and collectors, so the players were not only instructed on the play, but given a full character portrayal at each table. At one table Wyatt Earp was dealing, while at another, you might find a "drunken" Doc Holiday. They were all very entertaining. The guest who won the most "money" at the end of the night was awarded one of the Soapy grave marker chips in a shadow box. An $80 value, according to this years auction.

Soapy money used for gambling at the faro tables

Jeff Smith once again brought the original grave marker and spoke to the crowd on new found information regarding the history of Soapy. He mingled the rest of the night with interested guests. He said he talked until his throat gave out. Jeff was there throughout the evening to answer questions about his great grandfather and signing autographs. There was a notable increase in the size of the crowd, and the knowledge of Soapy this year. Plans are already being made for next year!
The guest of honor

Two time, U.S. champion pool trick shooter, Chef Anton, wowed the crowd with his humorous and  skillful trade. He is very popular. "Professor" Dave Bourne, from HBO's Deadwood, played his 19th century piano while beautiful and talented Brandy LaPlante sang popular melodies from the era. These are two really nice people.

Many guests came in old west clothing and the costume contest had some very interesting entries. Once again, Jeff was one of the judges, and said this year was even harder than last to decided who the winners were. Larry Bitterman, of Old Frontier clothing Company donated one of his finest shirts as a prize. 

Jeff Smith donated several slivers that had fallen from the Soapy grave marker, to the event. Whit Haydn placed them in two beautifully decorated shadow boxes, complete with signitures of authentication. One of the boxes went to the raffle and the other was placed in the auction and realized a final bid of $80. Not bad for a sliver of wood smaller than half a tooth-pick.

At 9:00 p.m. Jeff took the stage and spoke on the adventures of Soapy. At 9:15 pm, the approximate time of Soapy's death, Jeff asked Whit Hayden to come join him on stage and the two men gave the toast we all had gathered for.  What a night it was.

Next years bash will be even bigger. We plan to turn the whole Magic Castle into a den of thieves competing against each other to take the prize. People will be able to register as dealers or players.  Fealers can run their own faro tables, monte games, chuck-a-luck, dice, shell game, fast and loose, coin pitch, etc., and play for each others and for the players' Soapy money. The player and the dealer with the most Soapy dollars at the end of the evening win the two biggest prizes of the night.  -Whit Haydn

Beauty & the Chip
(one of the grave marker chips in its shadow box)

Many of Jeff's friends where in attendance.  Newly weds "Minnesota" Maureen and "German Pete," came all the way from Whitehorse city.  On the right is the wrapper made for the Soapy soap sold at the event.

"Morgan, Wyatt, Virgil, Doc and Soapy play faro"
(guests were responsible for keeping an eye on their own money)

film producer Enfuego, Jeff Smith and "German Pete"

Chef Anton wows the crowd. Chef is the U.S. champion pool trick shooter.

The Smith family wishes to extend their gratitude and praise to Whit Haydn, Jim Richards, Jeff Brady and all the people who have organized and put on the Wakes in memory of Soapy Smith.

Thank you!


Use the links below, or see all  pages available in the side-bar on your left

No images may be used without prior written permission from Jeff Smith.